N.C. Education Board: Most students won’t get letter grades this school year

[Photo courtesy North Carolina Department of Public Instruction]

By Alex Granados/Education NC
The landscape for student grades is changing this spring semester after the North Carolina State Board of Education voted to pass new guidance today in reaction to a pandemic-spurred move to remote learning.

Students in elementary school will receive no final grades under the plan passed today. Instead, teachers will provide year-end feedback to students.

“Teachers will document individual strengths and needs from both an academic and social/emotional perspective,” said Sneha Shah-Coltrane, director of advanced learning and gifted education at the state Department of Public Instruction (DPI), adding later: “We believe this is absolutely critical, because we don’t understand what is happening in every student’s environment.”

Students in middle school will receive a pass or withdrawal for each course. The withdrawal will go to those students who were not passing the course as of March 13, but it does not equate to a failing grade.

High school students in grades nine through 11 will have the option of either getting the numerical grades they had as of March 13 or “as it improved through the semester as remote learning continued,” or they can get a pass or withdrawal. A withdrawal does not count as a failing grade, but the student will not get a course credit. If a student chooses a numerical grade, that will be factored into their GPA, while a pass or withdrawal will not.

The Board voted on grading guidance in March, but vowed to revisit the policies as the situation changed on the ground and more was learned about the impacts of remote learning on students.

The guidance around seniors remains the same as it was in March — they will get a pass or withdrawal for the spring semester depending on their grades up to March 13, with the chance to improve failing grades via remote learning. Revisions to the policy regarding seniors may be taken up again in the future with the aim of addressing the request of some Board members that seniors be given the option to have a numerical grade if they want one.

Under these new rules, promotion or retention of a student remains the purview of the school principal and/or staff. DPI is recommending that students only be considered for retention if they were already being considered for it as of March 13.

While there is a plan in place, Shah-Coltrane and others emphasized the fact that it is not perfect.

“There is no grading policy that will solve issues of inequities that typically exist in our communities and schools,” Shah-Coltrane said. “It is very important that we remember that.”

Read more about the decision at Education NC.